“I give you a new commandment: love one another.”
Few words of our Lord are more familiar than these—“love one another.” Yet these same words, this “new commandment” that Jesus solemnly gives to His disciples just before His Passion, are easily lost in their very familiarity. Even the disciples of the author of the today’s gospel knew this.
St. Jerome recounts a story about the disciples of St. John who, in the saint’s later years living in Ephesus (Greece) were caring for him. When he was very old and frail, his disciples could barely carry him to church. By then St. John had trouble speaking; however the few words he did utter were always the same. During individual gatherings he often said nothing but, "Little children, love one another." His disciples eventually grew rather annoyed because they always heard the same words. Finally one day they asked him, "Teacher, why do you always say this?" St. John replied, "Because it is the Lord's commandment and if it alone is kept, it is sufficient."
Of course! Jesus gave this commandment near the end of His own life on earth, during which time Jesus plainly told His Apostles that He was the fullness of the Revelation of the Father—the Father Who is LOVE! “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
As he neared death St. John’s words indeed echoed the Lord’s command. For isn’t it true that at the end of one’s life, when everything else begins to fall away, only one thing truly remains: love. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, then, face to face. At present I know partially, then, I shall be fully known. So faith, hope, and love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Therefore of all the mistakes we can make in life, we must not make this one; we must not neglect the fundamental commandment to love. In other words, we dare not treat the Lord’s commandment as if it were merely a “suggestion.” As a front seat passenger who was giving directions to the driver once said in frustration as the driver kept going the wrong way, “My directions are not suggestions!” It should be sobering when we consider how often we treat the Lord’s commandment as if it were merely a suggestion. If we believe Jesus reveals the Father Who is Love, then these words, also from St. John, should give us pause: “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love” (1 Jn 4:7-8).
Still, will we be moved by the Lord’s commandment to make a change of attitude toward our neighbor? Such love requires effort. Yes it does; and why not give my effort to match the Lord’s Who died on the Cross for love of me?
Plan for eternity. Fulfill the Lord’s commandment of love. At the end of your life, what else can you possibly hope to give to the Lord that He wants more than this?